Kiwis must improve gender equality record

Sir Anand Satyanand –

This lecture, now in its fifth year, has developed a tradition of delivering to a discerning audience, a worthwhile contribution to the general discourse about governance and the principles which underlie it.

Taking the word ‘tradition’ from its Latin root trader, “to give for safe keeping,” I can say that the contributions in the past years – from the then Secretary and Chief Executive of Foreign Affairs & Trade Secretary John Allen, Business New Zealand Chief Executive Phil O’Reilly, international businessman based in New Zealand Vino Ramayah and international and intergovernmental civil servant Sir Don McKinnon, have certainly filled that bill.  Each lecture has probed the need and basis for standards and their maintenance.

Reset compasses

This year, 2015, seems to me to be a very suitable time for Dr Susan Macken to be the Master of Ceremonies and Jan Dawson to be the Lecture deliverer.

In the short article that I wrote at to proceed this year’s lecture (Indian Newslink, July 15, 2015), I quoted the Commonwealth Lecture delivered in London by UNDP Administrator and former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark in April when she reflected on 2015 being a good time to “reset compasses.”

One of the issues deserving attention in that regard, the more so in a country like New Zealand, where people are in world terms well educated and rights conscious, is the role of women in governance.

The Speakers

Jan and Susan, two well-known and well respected contributors who have not only made their own mark but also challenged organisations to foster diversity and improve the quality of the talent pool.

The audience is privileged to have as well, two other contributions emerging from relevant fields; Wendy Palmer as Chief Executive of Media Works reflecting on gender equity within the Fourth Estate and Ranjna Patel being able as a successful businesswoman and company director to speak in your reflection as a New Zealander from an ethno-minority.

Dreadful treatment

In the Indian Newslink article, I made mention of the dreadful treatment accorded to Elizabeth Yates elected Mayor of Onehunga in 1893 very shortly after women were granted the vote in New Zealand.

Disruption and obstruction characterised her term in which she served just one year.

It is sobering to think that despite the vote being achieved in 1893, it took until 1933 before Elizabeth McCombs was elected to Parliament for the seat of Lyttelton and it took until 1957 before Annie Huggan became Mayor of Petone.

This may seem all the more surprising today when Mayors such as Fran Wilde, Cath Tizard, Lianne Dalziel, Kerry Prendergast, Frana Cardno, Celia Wade Brown and Steve Chadwick have all been household name Mayors in major New Zealand places.

Chronic underutilisation

One of the things I have consulted is a 2004 piece of work by the Human Rights Commission and New Zealand Centre for Women and Leadership authored by Su Olsson and Dr Judy McGregor writing up what was called a Census of Women’s Participation in Governance and Public Life.

Its findings revealed what the study called “a chronic underutilisation of women’s skills and talents in governance as members of boards of top companies in the private corporate sector. Crown companies fared better but it was hoped that “business leaders will be encouraged to think differently about future appointments.”

The proper focus is on another aspect related to good governance in our country.

The values we consider important in life are not any birth right. They are grounded in the values of those who have preceded us, formed and shaped through education and through interactions with peers, colleagues and role models.

In conclusion, adopting the risk of repeating something I said at last year’s lecture, I am one who has long admired the phrase of Robert Louis Stevenson which is becoming a byword for this occasion: “Every heart that has beat strongly and cheerfully has left a hopeful impulse behind it in the world, and bettered the tradition of mankind.”

Sir Anand Satyanand is former Governor General of New Zealand. The above is an edited version of the speech that he delivered at the Fifth Annual Indian Newslink Sir Anand Satyanand Lecture at Pullman Hotel Auckland on Monday, 27, 2015. More than 350 people attended the Black Tie event which included cocktails and dinner. More reports and pictures appear in this Section and under Businesslink.


A section of the audience listening to Master of Ceremonies Dr Susan Macken at the Firth Annual Indian Newslink Sir Anand Satyanand Lecture held at Pullman Hotel Auckland on July 27.

Pictures by Narendra Bedekar and Sai Bedekar



Add a Comment